By Phurbu Thinley
Photo by Prem Sood
Dharamsala, July 1 : Exile Tibetans and their supporters today held a protest rally against the launch of China's railway line to Tibet in the northern Indian hilltown of Dharamsala. Tibetan protestors wore black armbands to show their resistance to the railway and China's ongoing occupation of Tibet and to show their solidarity with Tibetans suffering under Chinese rule. The protest demonstration started from the main square at McLeod Gunj town and snaked its way down to the Tsuglakhang temple. The town wore a deserted look except for the protest demonstration as Tibetan shopkeepers and restaurants owners had downed their shutters in support of the "Reject the Railway" campaign.
In addition to wearing black armbands, some protestors were also draped in green, yellow, and olive green clothing to symbolise environmental degradation, cultural assimilation and militarisation respectively in Tibet after the railway begins its operation in Tibet. Scores of others wrapped in red followed a mock railway engine that symbolised the demographic aggression unleashed by Chinese settlers in Tibet.
The protestors numbering in hundreds shouted slogans against the railway and dubbed the July 1 launch of railway as the "Black day" in Tibet and for exile Tibetans all over the world. Explaining further on this, Ngawang Woeber, president of the Gu Chu Sum former political prisoners' organisation in an address at the protest rally said, "Today we observe the Black day in our history as China has flagged off its railway to Tibet. But it is also true that for Tibet, everyday has been a black day since Chinese occupation in 1949 which is why today's event should be considered by all Tibetans as the Blackest Day in our history because the railway brings with it threat to all that is Tibetan: our culture, identity, environment and rich natural resources".
Exile Tibetan activist groups such as Gu Chu Sum, Students for a Free Tibet (India), Tibetan Women's Association and the regional chapter of Tibetan Youth Congress jointly organised the protest.
Protests were carried out all over the world. The Voice of Tibet Tibetan radio service reported of protests held in northern Indian town of Haridwar by the Tibetan Sweater sellers association led by the regional chapter of Tibetan Women's Association. Tibetan shopkeepers closed down business for the day and held a rally in the main plaza of the town.
The regional chapter of Tibetan Youth Congress in Shimla also held protest demonstration against the railway line to Tibet.